Homes evacuated as forest fire burns near Beit Shemesh amid heatwave
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Homes evacuated as forest fire burns near Beit Shemesh amid heatwave

Residents of nearby community of Tslafon told to leave their homes; firefighting plane deployed to help control flames

Firefighters at the scene of a blaze near Moshav Tslafon, May 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Firefighters at the scene of a blaze near Moshav Tslafon, May 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Firefighters battled to control a blaze in the Tzora Forest north of Beit Shemesh on Saturday morning as Israel was hit by a heatwave.

Residents of the nearby community of Tslafon were evacuated from their homes, police said in a statement, as firefighting planes worked alongside teams on the ground to extinguish the flames.

Firefighters later said they had managed to control the blaze.

Last summer’s record heat was blamed for starting a massive wave of fires nationwide, burning down homes in central Israel and forcing the evacuation of hundreds.

Illustrative: Firefighter planes work to put out a fire raging in near Kibbutz Harel, on May 23, 2019. (Flash90)

Temperatures were expected to rise and potentially reach 46°C (114.8°F) in some parts of Israel in the coming days.

The Health Ministry has issued a warning to the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions, instructing them to stay indoors, avoid unnecessary physical exertion and drink plenty of fluids as temperatures rise.

Temperatures could reach up to 41°C (105°F) in Afula and Beersheba, 43°C (109°F) in Beit She’an, 36-37°C (96.8°F) in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and 34°C (93.2°F) in Safed.

People at the Red Sea in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, on May 13, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The high temperatures are expected to persist into next week, with Bet She’an potentially reaching up to 46°C (114.8°F) and Tiberias 45°C (113°F) by Tuesday.

Thousands of people visited the beaches of Tel Aviv on Friday, despite continued restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Haaretz daily reported that some beaches had lifeguards, despite the fact that the sea is only set to be opened to bathers on Wednesday after a nearly two-month shuttering due to the coronavirus.

Israelis enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv, May 12, 2020 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Last July was the hottest month across the globe ever measured, seeing records tumble across Europe and unusually high temperatures around the Arctic Circle as well.

During that searing month, the highest temperature in Israel was recorded on the southern shores of the Dead Sea, near the site of Biblical Sodom, where the mercury hit 49.9° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit), a record for the spot.

The sweltering temperature was only a few degrees shy of the highest-ever temperature recorded in the country, 54°C (129°F) in June 1942 at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi in the northern Jordan Valley.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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